Europe could face a raw material scarcity which may well result as both a direct and indirect consequence of the Russian export ban on logs due to commence in January 2022.
Demand for wood in Europe is currently high and likely to remain so. While Europe imports a relatively small amount of Russian logs (approximately 170,000 tonnes of softwood logs and almost 3.4 million tonnes of birch logs), other neighbouring countries namely Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey also have log or wood product export bans (or measures having the same effect) so the cumulative direct impact will be an increase in competition for logs in the EU market resulting in an upward pressure on sawlog and timber prices.
The pulp and paper industry, especially in Finland, would be also significantly impacted. About 0.5 million cubic meters of coniferous pulpwood were imported to Finland in 2020. It must be also remembered that a few European forest companies have leased forest areas in Russia, from which timber exports to the EU would also cease as a result of the export ban.
The indirect impact is that the Russian ban will cut off supplies to China, the number one export location for Russian logs. China will then be forced to seek alternative sources of this key raw material.
Consequently, China may well come to Europe to buy logs further exacerbating the existing competition for logs resulting in prices being driven ever higher. There are already signs of this as European shipments of logs to China have been sharply increasing for a few months. As a consequence all over Europe wood processing companies are fearful they may be outbid on log prices.
Ultimately, uncontrolled export of logs from Europe will ultimately result in Europe being short of the sustainable wood it needs for use in the built environment to meet its 2050 Net Zero climate goal.
The lockdown on movement necessitated by the Covid pandemic led to many households across Europe investing in Do-It-Yourself projects and renovations involving wood products. At the same time the use of wood in new build continues to increase. The use of wood in construction and renovation results in more carbon being stored in the built environment and at the same time it substitutes for energy intensive materials, such as steel and cement, whose manufacture is dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. The lifting of the Russian log export ban is hence of critical importance to the European timber industry reports Global Wood Markets Info.